12 Tips on Setting Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals functions as a crucial step towards success.

When you set unrealistic goals, you make it difficult to measure progress and make changes when necessary. For example, if your goal is to spend less than $100 on groceries this month, but you end up spending $150, then what do you do?

You need to either change your goal or find a way to stick closer to the initial goal. So where do you even begin with all of that? Here are a few tips on how to set realistic goals.

Define Setting Realistic Goals

A realistic goal can be achieved without you having to go well beyond the limits of what’s reasonable. Remember that not every goal is realistic for you, so it’s okay if your goals aren’t achievable for everyone.

Establish SMART Goals

When setting goals, follow the SMART goal structure. This means that your goals should be:

  • Specific (What is it that you want to accomplish?)
  • Measurable (How will you know when your goal has been met?)
  • Achievable (Is it something you can actually do within the time frame given?)
  • Relevant (Does this goal help you accomplish a bigger goal?)
  • Timely (What is the deadline for your goals? When do you want to have them finalized by?)

Be Realistic About Time

You don’t have an infinite amount of hours in your day. Only so much can be accomplished in 24 hours no matter how time-efficient you are.

Plan out each day, week, and month to see where you have free time. This way, you can schedule the things that are most important so they get done.

Be Flexible About Your Goals

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. You may wake up one morning and learn that you have a medical emergency.

If this happens, then it’s perfectly okay to reschedule your goals for another day. You can’t control what happens around you, but you do have the power to change your response to it.

Appraise Your Progress Often

Don’t get discouraged! Try to figure out why something didn’t work and what can be done differently next time.

If you couldn’t stick to your diet because you had a stressful day at work and caved when someone brought in donuts, then maybe you should try and work on some stress-relieving techniques so that you can better cope with stressful situations. It might also help to plan out healthier alternatives to your favorite snacks ahead of time so that you have a backup when cravings hit.

Set Goals that are Achievable

Setting goals unachievable goals can lead to disappointment. Even if you feel like it’s something you should be able to do, if you’re not setting aside enough time or resources for it then your goal might be unrealistic.

Work Backwards for a Better Outlook

If you want to save $500 this month, what does that mean for your budget? Probably cutting out eating out and going shopping. This can help keep you accountable as well as give a clear picture of the steps needed to achieve your goals!

Write Down Smaller Milestones

One way around making realistic goals is by setting smaller milestones along the way. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds in a year, maybe your goal should be to lose one pound per month instead. If this is too big of a jump for you, then break it down even further – losing two pounds every other month or ten pounds during winter are both great goals that are easier to achieve.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Long Term

While it’s great to have shorter goals, don’t shy away from longer-term ones as well! If you want to make a career change in the next five years, then go ahead and set that goal for yourself without feeling too overwhelmed by all those months or years you still have to achieve it.

Focus On the Process, Not Just the Result

When you focus too much on an outcome or time frame, your mind can easily wander and set unrealistic goals in that way. For example, instead of saying “I want to be debt-free by next year” try saying “I want to pay off my student loans by next year.” The goal remains sizable, but it’s something that you can do step-by-step.

Set Daily or Weekly Goals

Instead of setting monthly or yearly milestones, set smaller ones for yourself each day and week! If you have a big idea of what you want to accomplish, break it down into smaller steps so that they’re achievable.

Readjust Goals as Needed

Life happens and things don’t always go according to plan! When this does happen, just reevaluate your goals and see if there is anything else you can do in the meantime until the time comes when you need to start working towards the original goal again.

Remember Your Sense of Self

You’ll make plenty of mistakes and miss the mark in the beginning. That’s normal, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Often, we can be a little too hard on ourselves about our capabilities. My book, Life After Low Self-Esteem, provides advice on how to change our self-talk to be more encouraging and uplifting.

Give it a read and let me know what you think!